God, Ebola and the Church
Pastor Ituah Ighodalo was the first pastor-victim of hostile public opinion when he took it upon himself to assert that God can heal Ebola. He cited the story of missionary John J Lake’s healing ministry during an outbreak of bubonic plague in Southern Africa about a hundred years ago. He boldly claimed that every child of God has the life of God capable of de-activating the Ebola virus. The enormous outrage that followed the post made the Pastor to publish a clarification, stating that “the original story was a message of hope and faith” and that he never claimed “that he had found a solution or that ‘only God’s anointing and the living words of Jesus’ were all that were needed for the Ebola disease or that people should not seek medical help and attention”.
The EVD outbreak has given people an ample opportunity to challenge and taunt preachers. They have been challenged to go to the endemic regions and proof their healing prowess. Clerics became wary of what they say or did not say about the virus. However, it is important today to point out that there is no conflict between Pastor Ighodalo’s message of hope and faith, that God indeed can heal Ebola, and the need to adopt a healthy and responsible attitude to any incidence of EVD, or any disease for that matter.
The Scriptures on Infectious Diseases
The Israelites had a remarkable testimony of good health in their 40 years journey across the desert to the promised-land. Their “raiment waxed not old upon [them], neither did [their] foot swell, [those] forty years”. This feat was a combination of unprecedented health laws as well as divine health provisions.
As long they were obedient, God had promised, “I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.” However, in spite of this Divine provision, God instituted the principles of medical quarantine which the Israelites scrupulously observed during the exodus. As succinctly put by bibleevidences.com while discussing the scriptural provisions in Leviticus 13, 14, 22, and Numbers 19:20:
the instructions regarding quarantine to prevent the spread of leprosy and other infectious diseases are nothing short of remarkable, considering that this life-saving practice was several thousand years ahead of its time. Infected persons were instructed to isolate themselves outside the camp until healed, and were to shave and wash thoroughly. The priests that administered care were instructed to change their clothes and wash thoroughly after inspecting a plague victim. It should be re-emphasized that the Israelites were the only culture to practice quarantine until the last century, when medical advances finally demonstrated the importance of sanitation and isolation during plagues.
To request individuals infected with contagious disease to be quarantined is the responsible and scriptural thing to do.
And Still, God Showed Up.
And so, in spite of the decided public consensus that God should be left out of the EVD business; it does not appear He is going to take the back seat at all! The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, acknowledged that we were “lucky” that Patrick Sawyer came in the way he did. Imagine a Patrick Sawyer who is not a diplomat, but an itinerant trader coming in to Nigeria through Seme Border, in a crowded public bus, vomiting intermittently as the bus negotiates its way to Lagos, and eventually ending up in a high traffic, local clinic in some high density area of Lagos? How many contacts would we be able to trace? How many people would have innocently offered to assist the sick man along the journey? Would not rodents and cockroaches have had access to the vomit in our numerous open sewages and done a good job of spreading the virus? Above all, would he not have died unknown and undiagnosed, while the undertakers would not have known any better?
They called it luck, I say it is God! Now the entry of Patrick Sawyer has become a National Inoculation which has awakened Nigeria to prepare for the inevitable. We pray for the families have been affected by this incursion.
The Survivors Thank God!
The two infected American health workers eventually had the almighty ZMAPP administered. And they recovered. Hear this from Dr. Kent Brantly, the Samaritan Purse’s Doctor:
“I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support. But what I can tell you is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers…Through the care of the Samaritan’s Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use of an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the health care team at Emory University Hospital, God saved my life — a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.” Of course, the world was annoyed again: How dare he thank God for what ZIMAPP and Emory did?
Well, Dennis Akhaga, fiancé of the late nurse who attended to the Nigerian index case, did not take ZIMAPP. And he was not at Emory. When asked by the Vanguard: “So how did your status change from positive to negative?”, he had this to say:
“I was reading a book on healing and taking of the Holy Communion. So I learnt to take Holy Communion morning, afternoon and night. I also engaged myself in feet-washing every day before going to bed. The Almighty God saved me; the Holy Spirit healed me. It wasn’t as though l didn’t fall sick as l had direct contact with Justina but the Almighty God healed me. When I was discharged, I got to my house on Saturday evening and spent two hours the next day, Sunday, thanking God on my own. I didn’t go to church or anywhere because of the already established stigma but today I can confidently attend church activities because I guess they all know I’m free now. I know my faith and belief healed me. God also worked for me apart from the fact that my immune system is also working. I believe I got healed also because friends prayed for me.”- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/08/survived-ebola-dennis-akagha/#sthash.TYy4FRvA.dpuf
Still Hold on to Your God!
Even though the Minister of Health has said the outbreak is under control, and the world is applauding Nigeria for doing a good job in managing the spread, let us continue to watch, pray and believe. Watch by observing the health tips circulated by public health authorities and keeping yourself from infection by sin. Maintain your fellowship with God so that the quickening Spirit of Life which liberates from the law of sin and death can continue to flow through you. And, be not afraid; remain confident in the promises of God. He is faithful that has promised:
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”
It is well.
Scriptural References: Deu 8:4, Psa 91:3-6